Russell Reynolds Associates: Rise of Women on Boards Paves the Way for More Women Chairs

The proportion of female executives in board rooms is rising. Women are not only filling more board seats while joining at a younger age, but they are also closing the experience gap and getting appointed to committee chair, vice chair/SID, and chair positions.

Studies reveal that having more women on boards enhances the caliber of dialogue, leading to more inclusive and efficient decision-making processes within companies—as well as better alignment with stakeholders' rapidly changing expectations. In May 2020 and May 2023, Russell Reynolds Associates compared the paths taken by 1483 board directors on 172 boards of top companies in France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, and the United Kingdom in order to gain a better understanding of the evolving composition of European boards. The analysis revealed the following:

  • Women’s representation on boards is at an all-time high. In 2023, women held 44% of all board seats across Europe, up from 38% in 2020.
  • The pipeline of women chairs is strengthening. There are more women in committee leadership roles, in vice or deputy chair/senior independent director (SID) positions, as well as in the chair seat itself, creating a more robust pipeline of highly qualified women candidates for future chair positions.
  • Internal chair appointments are the norm. 62% of men and 67% of women chair placements were through internal board appointments, highlighting the importance of developing the next generation of board leadership and robust chair succession planning.

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Jacques Bouwens, Laura Sanderson
Thought leadership category